Now that I’ve got a 6 month old on my hands, I think it’s time to reflect on what being a mom has taught me thus far. So here are the 6 things I’ve learned so far from baby, one for each month:
- Be Yourself. Having never been a parent before, I had no idea that there were formal parenting styles out there – Attachment, Slow, Ferberization. I don’t know about you, but if someone asked me “what kind of person are you?” I’d just look at them dumbfounded, and it seems just as strange to confine and box in my parenting role. Do what feels naturally; that is what you will excel at. Trust your instincts. Use common sense. Whatever works for you? Do that. Your baby wants you to be you, accepts you as you, and loves you for who you are. Being your authentic self is all your baby asks of you.
- You Can’t Fix Everything. Sometimes you will not be able to sort out what’s wrong with baby. You’ve changed the diaper, you’ve fed, you’ve held and rocked her, you’ve sung to her, you’ve walked her, and yet? Still crying. You will try everything in your bag of tricks. Your family, friends, and neighbors will try different things. And yet, nothing seems to help. Then? All of a sudden, the clouds part and your happy, content baby returns. You may never know what was wrong in that moment, but just know that your very efforts to try to console her are what matters. That brings us to:
- This, too, Shall Pass. Right after we first brought baby home from the hospital, some friends brought over their 6 month old, and gave us some of the best advice we could have heard: Don’t spend too much time trying to sort out what is “wrong”, because baby is ever-changing, and so her needs and development dictate that it will always be something different. One week, it might be that she seems hungry every hour and that you may never sleep again, but then the next week she seems to have settled into more of a feeding routine and goes 3-4 hours between nursing. One month it might be that she needs to be held an awful lot and you may never be able to eat anything that isn’t hand-held again, but the next month she seems slightly more independent. Just in the past 6 months, I’ve seen baby go from sleeping only an hour or two at a time to sleeping 6 hours at a stretch; from eating only an ounce or two at a time to hoovering a 5-oz. bottle; from not wanting to be put down to wanting to play by herself on her rug for a bit. Every phase is surpassed by the next, and you don’t want to miss a moment, so don’t spend your time wondering what’s wrong. Instead:
- Take Every Moment at Face Value. I’m not about to tell you that every single instant with your little one is a blessing or that you should try and cherish every. single. minute (and I thank Momastery for stating that so well). But there is something to be said about the application of mindfulness meditation to being a mom. If you are thinking of what’s next, you might miss that funny look you’re getting right now. And if you’re stressed about the fussiness from last night, you might be stressing out your baby, too. They’re very sensitive to you. So try to just take life moment by moment. And see what unfolds. Just being a keen observer of my baby is, in itself, fascinating. One moment she’ll be crying, then that cry will turn into a babble, then that babble into a smile and half-hearted giggle, then all serious. There’s no predicting, and it’s fun to go along for the ride.
- Make Time for Play. I often hear or read about baby routines, and it’s usually all about when baby sleeps or eats, but what’s important to me is not a routine, but to be sure and make time for the small stuff. I find playing with baby to be the most joyful experience I can imagine. Her contagious giggles, her wide-eyed smile, and her desire for you to “do it again!” are all I need as a reminder for how pleasurable life’s smallest moments (and people) can be. Play is when I discover the new moves she’s got, new facial expressions, new reactions, and the things that she enjoys the most. It’s also fun for us – she has a magical ability to make all adults around her behave like utter goofballs.
- Dismiss All Unsolicited Advice – including this post. Take everything as it is – close friends and family offer advice with only the best intentions of offering you some tried-and-true tips that worked for them. Your pediatrician may have some great insights for you on why your baby might be behaving a certain way. Folks at daycare will offer their helpful “suggestions” for you. And total strangers will come up to you to offer their two cents. If it sounds ok and the source is good, something to think about. But the most important rule is #1 – Be Yourself. So if any advice you get seems a little odd to you or just doesn’t gel with your style? Fuhgeddaboudit!